Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Frederic Malle- Carnal Flower

I'll be honest: Carnal Flower is not my favorite out of the grand dames of tuberose perfumes. The top spot belongs to Ferme tes Yeux and Fracas in extrait de parfum, and I doubt this is ever going to change, since even Dominique Ropion's Carnal Flower, created for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums in 2005, did not change my mind. I'm biased, though, because Fracas simply smells better than on my skin, and that tends to skew one's opinion quite a bit. Still, I do acknowledge the fact that Carnal Flower is one magnificent fragrance.

I returned to this Frederic Malle perfume this week after reviewing a sub-par new tuberose fragrance. I wanted to re-calibrate my nose and remind myself how much I love this luscious flower on its many facets. Wearing Carnal Flower was the perfect way to do it, because it's incredibly nuanced and balanced, without leaning too heavily on any one of the flower's characteristics. It also doesn't try too hard to be pretty: Ropion took both the green freshness and the skin-like sensuality of his tuberose and stretched them until they almost touch the unpleasant aspects of reality: rot and decay.  The freshly cut green stems start dying as soon as they're exposed to air; add to that a hint of overripe fruit (hello, melon!), and you get the underside of carnality.

In between, though, Carnal Flower also seduces with the sunshine of other white flowers: jasmine and orange blossom, and tempts with soft white musk. It's not too sweet and is also free of gardenia, making this Frederic Malle perfume one of those rare creatures: a tuberose fragrance that is not too femme (Cedre by Uncle Serge, Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3 L'Animale, and JAR's Ferme tes Yeux. are the only others I can think about). A man who loves tuberose should be able to wear Carnal Flower without feeling too self-conscious, something is probably a lot harder to do with Her Grace, Fracas.

Notes: tuberose, bergamot, melon, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, white musk, coconut, and orange blossom absolute.

Frederic Malle- Carnal Flower ($155, 30ml in 3x10ml travel sprays) is available from Frederic Malle boutiques, Barneys, and Aedes, as well as online.

Art: Tuberose by Yulia of


  1. I've never quite warmed to Carnal Flower. It seems to me like a color photo copy of something else, drained of the aspects that make the flower, well, Carnal. I'd prefer a dab of the extrait of Fracas. But just a dab. A dab is the promise of carnal delights you'll tell your grandsons about. More than that you'll be calling for oxygen..

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, Gaia, especially that bit about how pain and pleasure are perfectly attenuated by Ropion. It was so deftly put, I could almost smell the 'facets' in my mind.

  3. I, too, wear the Fracas extrait. I've worn it for two decades, so it is a familiar mistress. CF, which I love from a near distance, ramps up the green too much for my skin. From the Malles that have mentions of rot, Fleur de Cassie is my favorite.

  4. The last two summers I've actually been able to grow a few tuberose plants. Last year's one plant has morphed into three this year -- the rhizomes spread underground. Last summer one flower stalk scented our bedroom for days. I've yet to smell a perfume that really captures this fragrance, although Carnal Flower comes very close.

    We're not supposed to be able to grow tuberose here in Zone 7, with our definite winters, studded with fierce cold snaps. But somehow my plants are surviving. Go figure!

  5. In theory I should totally love this perfume based on the combination of my 3 favourite flowers, but in reality I am not totally over the moon with Malle's Tuberose version either...It is still a sensual scent but not really a discernable Tuberose I crave
    (excellent review, btw)

  6. I'm also a Fracas gal and prefer it to Carnal Flower. Neither one compares to the real thing, though, when it comes to intoxicating beauty and sensuality. I have several tuberoses in my garden and, as Olfacta pointed it, it only takes a stalk or two of these incredible blossoms to cast their spell over a room.

  7. I too have a word of caution on Carnal Flower, that I don't acknowledge as the tuberose to end them all. I find it also overestimated by niche perfumistas.

    The tuberose is demure, blurred by an opaline softness (very Ropion), and early soothens by a warm (sandalwood) and radiant (musk) drydown.
    It has an olive oil feel to it. It is more of a monoï fantasy.
    A bit overpriced too, given that there are not that much expensive tuberose, sambac jasmine, and neroli absolute, as claimed.

    I guess it sells well because it doesn't shock, it works very fine on skin in an "narciso rodriguez for her" effect, and truly is a tuberose frag.
    Perfume lovers are tricked by a "emperor's new clothes" effect : Carnal flower is very pleasing, competently done, of exquisite quality, but where is the tuberose 1st role?

    I prefer Fracas, Beyond love, and a lot of tuberose soliflore (caron, goutal, etc.) who are more respectful the femme fatale quality of it. Even the former l'artisan parfumeur's.
    I love my weird tuberose (tubéreuse criminelle). And those with tuberose involved in a supporting role (Joy).
    But I give less an less credit the tuberose frag "in the middle".


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